Marty Kotis of Greensboro, a current trustee of UNC-Chapel Hill, last week published an attack on me, the Coalition for Carolina and the University itself. You can read it here. https://nsjonline.com/article/2023/04/kotis-the-hypocrisy-of-the-coalition-for-carolina/
When I had the honor of serving on the Board of Trustees (2003-2011), trustees put party, politics and personalities aside. We put the University first. Times certainly have changed.
I feel compelled to correct statements Marty made that aren’t true. Marty said I am a Democrat. No, I have been a registered unaffiliated voter for a number of years.
He said our coalition is a partisan vehicle. No, we are Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
He said the University, its administration and former trustees mismanaged finances and failed students and the State of North Carolina. No, that is demonstrably false.
He is correct that when I was a trustee and board chair (2007-2009), Carolina faced severe budget challenges. That’s because the legislature imposed draconian budget cuts on all universities after the 2008 recession. We overcame that challenge. Carolina became one of the nation’s top five university recipients of federal research dollars, $2 billion in revenues. We attracted faculty members who do groundbreaking research that fights AIDS, Covid, genetic diseases like Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and other diseases.
We worked across party lines to secure permanent funding for the Lineberger Cancer Center, which has saved countless lives of North Carolinians and their families. We funded the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), which brings together researchers, government, and industry to develop and deploy advanced technologies that enable research discoveries and practical innovations.
Applications for admission to UNC have soared in the last two decades. Over 57,000 students applied for 4,800 slots in the Class of 2026. These students and their parents don’t think Carolina is failing.
The bipartisanship – truly, the nonpartisanship – behind that success is jeopardized by partisan attacks like Marty’s.
His is part of a national pattern of far-right political attacks on public universities, led by Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and Greg Abbott of Texas. Marty’s essay ran in the North State Journal, a conservative publication with close ties to the public relations firm that he and the trustees hired, apparently to attack our Coalition.
They won’t stop us from shining a light on what several of the current trustees are doing. Instead of supporting and advancing the University, they are sowing disruption and disrespect.
Our audience includes thousands of people – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – who are concerned about political interference at Carolina. One example: The legislature has taken away the power of the Governor of North Carolina to appoint any trustees at any university. Why? Because he’s a Democrat. Elected officials certainly should have a voice in the University. But legislators represent 170 separate districts. The governor, Democrat or Republican, represents the whole state.
Historically, UNC has been served well by shared governance: trustees, administration, faculty and student leaders working together. Today, we see pure politics, not good governance.
Our Coalition will stand up to political attacks. We will stand up for the University’s independence and academic integrity. We will stand up for the light that is the University of North Carolina.